Captain Harry Kane admitted the England players were hurting after Croatia ended their World Cup dream in last night’s semi-final loss in Moscow.
Kieran Trippier’s exceptional early free-kick had England dreaming of facing France on Sunday, but Croatia will line-up in their first World Cup final after Ivan Perisic levelled and Mario Mandzukic struck to secure a 2-1 extra-time win.
Kane said: “It is tough, we are gutted, we worked so hard and the fans were amazing. It was a tough game, a 50-50 game, I’m sure we will look back and there is stuff we could’ve done better.
It hurts, it hurts a lot, but we can hold our heads up high - we have gone further than a lot of people thought we would do.
“We created some good chances being 1-0 up, there are lots of ifs and buts and it is hard in these games, it is small margins and it went their way today. Until they scored we were always under the cosh. There is a lot we could have done better but they played better.
“Obviously it has been great to get to this stage and we know we have done everyone proud but we wanted to win. It hurts, it just hurts. It shows we can be up here, that we can win knockout games, can get to semi-finals and the next step is to go one step further.
This is a great foundation we have built with the gaffer, we are proud of what we have achieved but we wanted more and are sad we couldn’t give our fans a final.
England boss Gareth Southgate conceded his side lost their way after Croatia’s equaliser.
He said: “First half we were really good and we had chances. We lost our way a bit after their goal. Possibly at that moment we were hanging on a bit rather than trying to control the game.
“We got the control back in extra time and showed composure. Knockout football is fine margins.
“When you have spells in a game against a quality side you have to make them count. We needed a second goal.
“I think we were looking at how we might stem the tide but there weren’t clear changes we could make to change it. We just needed to show more composure. We stopped playing for a period of 20 minutes in the second half.”
He added: “By the end several players were out on their feet and we were down to 10. The reaction from the fans at the end shows you everything they’ve given.
We’ve come an incredibly long way in a short space of time. The whole thing is beyond where we thought we might go. Tonight we weren’t quite there. But the team will be stronger for it.
“As we reflect, there will be positives but it’s difficult tonight. We were so close to what was unimaginable at the start.
“We’ve left everything out there. We’ll look at the goals and chances but I don’t think we could have given more over these six or seven weeks.”